Thursday, December 20, 2012

Outdoor Christmas Eve celebration

We want to invite the community join us for an Outdoor Christmas Eve Celebration on Monday, December 24 at 4:30 p.m.  at our new property.
Outdoor Christmas Eve services might not be out of the ordinary for congregations in some parts of the country, but they don’t happen often in Minnesota.  After all, this is December and it is December.  But the beauty of a new church is we can try all sorts of new things.  What can be more new than celebrating the entrance of Jesus into the world in an outdoor setting.
Everyone who attends this celebration will receive hot coffee or hot apple cider.  Three fire pits will be burning on the perimeter.  We will sing carols, hear the Christmas story, light candles, and welcome in the light.
The property is located on the northern edge of the Lakes Development in Blaine.  It can be found from the intersection of Main (125th Ave) and Harpers by going south on Harpers, taking an immediate right on Marina Circle Drive and then turning right on Edison.
In case of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled.  We’ll share this information at
Come join us for this unique Christmas celebration!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Beginning and Newtown

At Chain of Lakes our theme for Advent has been New Beginnings.  We’ve talked about how God is always doing something new in our life.  We don’t have to invent these New Beginnings; our task is to perceive them.  The sermons can be seen here:
The horrible shootings last Friday in Connecticut have obviously revealed that our country needs a New Beginning with our relationship to violence.  Perhaps this New Beginning can start in congregations across the United States who resolve to find ways to prevent these murders.  I believe that God is working right now—just as God has always been working among us—to create a peaceful world.    
Let me state the obvious:
God didn’t create children so they would be killed in schools.
If we could keep the conversation right there and there alone I think we could develop the will to create a less violent world.  The solutions divide us, but this obvious fact doesn’t.  If we can stay with the obvious, then perhaps the hard work of finding the solutions won’t be so hard.
Sure, right now there is energy for meaningful gun control.  But I don’t think that meaningful gun control is the only solution to solving the problem of our countries relationship to violence. 
Yes, I do think that access to semi-automatic weapons should be limited; yes, I’ve never been in favor of conceal/carry in our state or country; no, I’m not for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment; yes, I do believe that people have the right to own guns in their homes (and I hope they store them safely); yes, I think hunters should be able to enjoy their sport; no, I’m not worried about the government having arms and the citizens not.
But if the only response to the shootings in Connecticut is the regulation of semi-automatic weapons the response is not complete. 
As long as teenagers have access to violent video games children will be killed in schools.  As long as adults don’t receive adequate mental health treatment, children will be killed in schools.  As long as Hollywood and television give us movies and shows where violence is glorified, children will be killed in schools.  As long as the media continues to be fascinated with the people who perform these evil acts, children will be killed in schools. 

The church is not guilty in relationship to these Mass Shootings.  We are more interested in stopping gratuitous sex than gratuitous violence.  I'm not in favor of either, but the consequences of our focus have been revealealed in incidents like the shooting in Newtown.  Our congregations don't offer sufficient Mental Health resources to the world, which is odd since Jesus has always been the great healer. 
The issues are obvious; the solutions are not.
I believe that the complete solution begins with God and then ricochets through the human heart.
I’m convinced that meaningful change can take place if church people get involved.  Our involvement can’t be around a partisan agenda; instead we have to bring people together to find a consensus on all these issues.  This will take perseverance even when the emotions regarding the Connecticut school shootings has withered.
I am happy to get involved, but I am first taking time to pray.  I have committed myself to praying every day in 2013 that no Mass Shootings will ever take place again.  This is my starting place; it won’t be my ending place.
I do believe that God wants a New Beginning in terms of our countries relationship to violence.  I don’t think a solution will happen unless we’re open to the movement of the Spirit.  This starting place could be our New Beginning.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marketing and the church

Thanks to Jennifer Huehns, Chain of Lakes’ crack Administrator, a group within Chain of Lakes has been working on a Marketing plan.  We hope to be done by the middle of February when the plan will be presented to the Steering Committee of Chain of Lakes for approval.
This is really the second part of our Marketing plan.  When I came to Chain of Lakes I shared that we needed to develop a Purpose Statement and Core Values.  The Purpose Statement answers the question, “why do you exist” Each of the eight Core Values at Chain of Lakes is a principle, quality, belief, and or/attitude that is foundational to our community
Our Purpose Statement and Core Values have formed the identity of our new church.   We love our Purpose Statement and Core Values.  They can be found at  Not a Sunday goes by when we don’t reference them.
During our Marketing meetings it became apparent that Chain of Lakes needs a new tag line.  In our minds a tag line is a very short statement that describes our new congregation.  It has to be consistent with our Purpose Statement and Core Values.  A tag line could be used in a casual conversation by a person from Chain of Lakes with another person.  If someone asked a Chain of Lakes participant what our new church is all about then the tag line could be shared.
I realize that some people believe that the church should not even be in the marketing business.  The thought process goes that marketing seems like selling, and we shouldn’t be selling God.  God doesn’t need to be sold, branded or have a tag line like Coca Cola or Nike or other successful companies.
I agree that God does not need to be marketed; however I have no problem with a church or group of churches sharing a message.  At Chain of Lakes we want to communicate who we are, really our identity.  Our marketing ministry doesn’t replace our worship ministry or education or service or works of justice or any ministry.  Our marketing complements these ministries.   
It’s my experience that most churches do a very poor job of marketing.  It’s not an accident that a popular web site is called “church marketing sucks.”  The idea of the site is not that marketing should not be done; instead the idea is that the quality of church marketing is poor.
When I drove into work this morning I saw a gigantic red sign on the outer wall of the Blaine campus of Eagle Brook that said, “Try church again” along with the church’s logo.  I know that some Presbyterians would throw up if they saw the sign.  My first thought when I saw the gigantic sign was “that’s really good.”  Eagle Brook is obviously appealing to people who have gone to church in the past and might try again during the Christmas season.  That’s smart.
This past Monday our Marketing group was experimenting with different tag lines.  We experimented with a lot of them.  At the end of our gathering threw out this one, “Regular people discovering a place to belong.”  That phrase resonated with us. 
Yesterday I asked my Facebook friends their opinion of the tag line.  I received all sorts of comments—ranging from love to horror.  The comments can be read at:!/hmoorepaul  I have no idea what the ultimate tag line at Chain of Lakes will be.  I do know that every comment we receive about it will help us refine what we will ultimately use.
We in the church have a message about God and about our local congregations that can transform people’s lives.  If we do a poor job of communicating the message won’t make an impact.
I’m interested in your thoughts.  What do you think about the church “doing” marketing?  What are your thoughts about this possible tag line?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Beginnings at Chain of Lakes

This Sunday, December 2 our Chain of Lakes Church is sharing a “New Beginnings” service with the community.  Ever since our new church moved to Da Vinci Academy in September we’ve looked forward to sharing this particular worship experience.  We’ve had a group of about 15 people who have met frequently to plan the day.
We have a terrific service planned.  Chain of Lakes’ Music Director Kristel Peters has composed a new song.  Cathy Smith will share a faith story about a new beginning she experienced on her faith journey.  In my sermon I will talk about belonging to God and how that helps us have a new beginning.  We will also share a video about the ministry of our new church.  After worship we will enjoy a meal together.
I want to especially invite people in the community to come to worship.  Da Vinci Academy is located at 131st Ave and Central in Blaine.  We will begin worship at 10:30 a.m. 
This is a wonderful opportunity to  check out our new church.  Even if you know you can't attend, would you take a moment right now to pray for our day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Gagliardi--two stories from an opposing team

Congratulations to John Gagliardi on an amazing football career at St. John’s University.  Sixty years of coaching football at the same school, 489 wins?  Wow.

I played football for Carleton from 1982-1985.  Our team played St. John’s three times in my career and like the other twenty-six times Carleton played St. John’s we lost.  Since my playing career was over I have followed MIAC football and especially Carleton football very closely.  John Gagliardi deserves every kudo that is given to him.  However with the utmost respect I can’t help but say I’ve never seen a coach able to win games that seemed out of reach.  I wouldn’t at all call him lucky as he was a brilliant coach who ran a brilliant program.  But I wouldn’t hesitate to call him charmed.

When I heard the news yesterday that he had retired two stories came to my mind.

The first happened on September 21, 1985, my senior year.  This was the third year that Carleton played in the MIAC.  We had taken our lumps the first two years, but we felt ready to contend for a championship.  We had routed the first two teams and now we had St. John's where we wanted them.  We were at home, and playing with confidence.  The week before St. John’s had barely beaten Bethel, who at the time finished at the bottom of the conference. 

This was going to be our statement game.

The game was rugged.  We scored at the end of the first half to take our first lead (10-6) ever against St. John’s.  Gagliardi was pacing the sidelines.  We were down by three early in the fourth quarter when our offense went on a signature drive.  We went deep into their territory.  A pass put the ball inside the five yard line.  We were going to score and win the game!  But then—.  A penalty was called on us.  Our quarterback was sacked.  We tried a field goal to tie the score—no good.  They took over, and we suddenly couldn’t stop them.  A touchdown for St. John’s and then a field goal.  St John's 23; Carleton 10.

In about 20 minutes the direction of each of our seasons changed. Something had dramaticially happened in the game—could it be the charm?  St. John’s went on to win the conference—aided by another charmed win the following week against St. Thomas.  We finished the season at .500—which did start a run of almost a decade of upper division finishes in the MIAC for Carleton.  But we had come to win the game—and somehow we lost.

The second story is one I will never forget.  In the fall of 2008 Carleton went on an improbable run of victories.  We were one victory away from our second conference championship.  The only team that was left to beat was St. John’s.  Again we had them right where we wanted them—at home, we were playing with confidence, St. John’s was not as good as in the past. 

By this time I knew about the Gagliardi charm.  I went to the game telling myself not to believe Carleton would win the game.  I had been disappointed too many times in the past.  I wouldn't give in to believing.

The game again was close and rugged.  I had the privilege of sitting next to two Carleton teammates and my revered coach, Bob Sullivan (Sully).  With little time left in the game Carleton was down by four and had fourth and goal.  We held our breath to see if the Knights would finally break through.  The Carleton quarterback dropped back, threw a fade in the end zone and it was ………….caught—touchdown Carleton!!! 

We were finally going to beat St. John’s and win the conference.  The charm had been broken, and we were already celebrating.  My teammates, Sully, and I jumped up and down like giggly kids who had received the greatest gift possible from Santa Claus. 

Carleton kicked off.  We were still celebrating as St. John’s returned the ball to the 40.  They completed a pass, then a long pass, and then the pass we won’t forget.  A long arching spiral down the St. John’s sideline that went for a touchdown.  You—have—got—to—be—kidding—me.  St John's 14; Carleton 10.  I immediately knew the mistake I had made.  I had disrespected the charm.   
Congratulations, John Gagliardi.  You were brilliant.  Your teams broke my heart, but they always earned my respect. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting

After tucking my daughter, Hannah, into bed last night I put the following post on my Facebook page: “Excellent Presbytery meeting. 100% better than Sept. Moments of inspiration, hope, despair, pain-- and very well run. And done at 8:30!” 
The meeting had moments of Inspiration
I was touched by the Youth Initiative that was shared early in the meeting.  It’s wonderful to see our Presbytery paying attention again to our high school youth. 
I was also touched by the opening comments by our terrific Moderator, Barbara Lutter.  She shared that after the September Presbytery meeting—which many people, including me, criticized—the leaders of the Presbytery committed themselves to changing the format of the meetings.  There would be longer consent agendas—they must have read Sarah Bigwood’s blog!!—along with less talking heads, less committee reports and less speaker time.  And they promised the meetings would be done by 8:30 p.m.  I especially appreciated the Speak Out time that was given to people right before dinner.  Thanks to the leaders of the Presbytery for paying attention to the many comments that flowed after the September meeting. 
The meeting had moments of Hope
I thought it was cool that the new, and I think all young—30’s and under—pastors led worship.  Thanks to Adam Copeland for sharing a presentation on the new Presbyterian Hymnal.  I enjoyed listening to him sing and singing with others.  I don’t know too much about the new Hymnal, but I’m willing to take a look. 
The meeting had moments of Despair
The Presbytery approved a budget for 2013 that was very difficult to pass.  To fill a hole of almost $100,000 the Presbytery is transferring that amount from a catastrophic reserve fund.  That didn’t sit well with many and a motion was passed to develop a solution.  I’m not sure what that means.
Our new church receives a significant part of our budget and a small percentage of the overall Presbytery budget from these funds.  I’m certainly glad that the Church Development Team budget was not cut.  We have achieved significant progress in 2012 at Chain of Lakes.  To cut our budget now would be like removing an oxygen line to an infant.
I read every Treasurer’s Report of the Presbytery which are on-line and are public information.  One simple—though admittedly difficult—solution would be to collect all unpaid Per Capita amounts from past years.  At of the end of June of this year churches owed a total of a half million dollars in uncollected Per Capita from previous years.  I was the pastor of a church that always paid our Per Capita, so I know how difficult this can be.  But I also know it can be done.  Community Presbyterian in Plainview does not owe any money in past Per Capita.
The meeting had moments of Pain
It was hard to watch the public rebuke of Rev. Jin Kim.  I was on the Permanent Judicial Commission which rendered a verdict on this case.  Many people spent many hours on this case.  I am praying that the victims can experience closure,that Rev. Kim can successfully go through his rehabilitation, and that Church of All Nations will thrive as a congregation. 
This was an excellent meeting.  Great job to everyone who organized it and provided leadership.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Presbyterian Day at Chain of Lakes

Yesterday Chain of Lakes had the joyous privilege of hosting Presbyterian Day.  This is an annual event where the Cameroonian community in the Twin Cities celebrates the independence of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon at a Presbyterian church in the Twin Cities.  This is the second year of the celebration.  Last year Arlington Hills Presbyterian Church hosted the event.
This is a very big deal for our Cameroonian friends.  We had 320 people attend worship at Chain of Lakes yesterday.  The planning team for the event had been meeting for the last two months. 
We at Chain of Lakes turned over our worship to the Cameroonian community.  I preached and led community only because the community asked if I would.  I even wore a robe for the first time on a Sunday morning since I’ve come to Chain of Lakes—the planning team asked me to do it!
For many of us yesterday’s worship experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Our friends from the Cameroon arrived early and streamed into our worship location at Da Vinci Academy.   We set up seats for 250; they were completely full.  Those who couldn’t find a seat stood while the children went to Sunday School or Child Care. 
And did we worship!!  Three separate choirs sang—one from Arlington Hills and another from Presbyterian Church of the Master.  During the sermon—which can be viewed at I talked about the rapidly changing demographics of our country and area.  Did you know that o9ver 21,000 people in Anoka County were not born in the United States?  Approximately 55 languages are spoken in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. 
One way for the church to address these changing demographics is to have many more events like yesterday where all of us learn about another culture—and for us in the church to put our first allegiance to Jesus Christ. 
Worship lasted for close to two hours.  I would be surprised if anyone left early.  After worship everyone feasted on terrific food that the Cameroonian community had prepared.  We then enjoyed another program of singing and dancing and speeches.  Many of the children in the Cameroonian community shared some memory verses.  At 2:00 at least 200 people were still present.
I was touched by the spiritual energy of the Cameroonian community.  They came willing to spend a lot of time in worship and with each other.  They were not looking at the clock wondering when they could get back to life.  Being in worship and community is a central part of their life.  They have much to teach many of us in America who are so accustomed and comfortable in an individual faith.  For the Cameroonians much revolves around their own deep sense of community.
What a privilege!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012 The Day After

I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. watching the election results.  At that point my body wouldn’t let me stay awake.  When I went to bed I knew that Obama had won—but wasn’t sure about the Amendments or the final results for the Minnesota House and Senate.  I woke up at 2:30 this morning to learn that this election is one that the Minnesota Democrats and Democrats across the country will remember for a long time. 
There will be plenty of time for plenty of people to offer plenty of analysis.  On this day after I’m asking all parties to go out of their way to find ways to work together for the common good.
The problems of our country and state cannot be solved by one political party.  Unless the Democrats are willing to work with the Republicans and vice versa we will be looking at more gridlock down the road.  The majority of our country and state are more interested in results than having a partisan agenda (no matter from what party) jammed down our throats.    
If anything this election should be a repudiation on an agenda-driven politics run by one-party.  The Tea Party had their day in 2010.  However their unwillingness to compromise brought down the Republicans in the Senate and certainly in Minnesota. 
If the Democrats aren’t willing to reach across the aisle, they will be bemoaning their results in two and four years.
I’m praying that bi-partisanship can be the model for the future.  That’s the lesson I’ve learned on the day after.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Special worship and cultural celebration led by our friends from the Cameroon

The following information was released today to the Press.  This event is a signficant opportunity for the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to experience the hosptiality of our friends from the Cameroon.  We expect at least 150 Cameroonian Presbyterians to be with us in worship.  We want to encourage the community to attend.  How often do we have the opportunty to attend a worship service led by our African friends?  We are going to be guests in our own church!
The Cameroonian Presbyterian community in Minnesota has chosen Chain of Lakes Church to celebrate their annual celebration of the independence of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon. 

The Cameroonians will lead worship at Chain of Lakes on Sunday, Nov. 11.  Worship will begin at 10:30 a.m. and takes place at Da Vinci Academy, 13001 Central Avenue NE in Blaine.   

“We are honored that our Cameroonian Presbyterian friends have chosen Chain of Lakes for their annual worship service.  We have decided to turn our worship service over to them that day.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of our new church and the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to experience an African-led worship experience,” said the Rev. Paul H. Moore, Organizing Pastor for Chain of Lakes Church.
Every year the Cameroonian Presbyterian community in Minnesota chooses a Presbyterian church in Minnesota to celebrate the independence of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, which happened in 1957.  They day is called Presbyterian Church Day.  Last year hundreds of Africans joined the people at Arlington Hills Presbyterian and people in the community for the celebration.  

During worship African choral groups will sing and Communion will be celebrated.   Leaders of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon have been invited to speak.  After worship a Cameroonian meal will be shared for everyone who is present.     

“I want to especially to invite the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to attend this service on Sunday, Nov. 11th.  This is quite an opportunity to worship, celebrate and learn from our Cameroonian friends,” said Moore.  “Many of us at Chain of Lakes and in the community will feel like guests who are being hosted by our Cameroonian neighbors.”
Chain of Lakes is a new church sponsored by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The congregation recently dedicated property at the northern edge of the Lakes Development.  They worship every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Da Vinci Academy in Blaine.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Remembering Paul Wellstone

I first heard about Paul Wellstone when I started classes at Carleton College in the fall of 1982.  Some of my football teammates made fun of his “radical” political positions.  He was running for State Auditor against Arnie Carlson in a quixotic quest for political office. 
I began to take him much more seriously when I signed up two years later for a class he taught called “Social Movements and Protest Politics.”  The mid 80’s was a time of protest in rural Minnesota.  Paul Wellstone was a significant part of those protests.  I couldn’t help but sign up for a class from him. 
It seemed that much of the state of Minnesota was upset about the many foreclosures that farmers suffered.  Farmers had been encouraged by the banks and credit unions to borrow beyond their means.  When land prices fell, the banks and credit unions pulled out the rug from underneath them through foreclosure.  I had two uncles who went bankrupt; farmers were losing farms that had been in their family for generations; people were turning up at the foreclosure sales and throwing pennies at the auctioneers.  Farmers were protesting at the State Capitol in large numbers and the farm protest movement, Groundswell originated in my home town of Worthington.  I still remember the first meeting at Memorial Auditorium.  I interviewed Bobbie Polzine, the leader of Groundwell and did my senior thesis at Carleton on how the people of Worthington viewed the social movement.  My Dad and I called hundreds of people in Worthington to survey their impressions. 
In the class I was expecting to experience a liberal professor—which I did—but the lasting impression of Paul on me was his authenticity.  He was one of the few people who I’ve known who would risk his career, his reputation, and anything else that he had in order to share his beliefs.  He was the poster child for “what you see is what you get.”  There wasn’t a phony bone in his body.  He always was willing to share the courage of his convictions.
I loved to listen to him speak, and I traveled with him to many rallies around the state.  I still remember going with him to “take over” the local credit union in my hometown of Worthington.  I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to call my parents from jail. 
When I told him in the spring of 1986 that I had the opportunity to work with Cesar Chavez in California he encouraged me to go; when I told him a few years later I might go to seminary he thought it was a terrific idea because he always believed that the world wouldn’t change unless the church was part of that change.  He wrote one of my recommendations for Union Seminary.
I stayed in touch with him after I graduated from Carleton.  When I became a community organizer I spoke in a few of his classes about my experiences and enjoyed breakfast at his home.  I never thought he would beat Rudy Boschwitz in 1990 as I saw his run like I viewed his run against Arnie Carlson in 1982.  It was one of the great surprises of my life that he won that race.
I never talked to Paul after he became a Senator.  I had always meant to catch up with him when he spoke at an event near me, but I was always too busy.  I respected him from afar.  I was not at all surprised that he made friends with many conservative Senators.  Even though he disagreed with their positions he could see the humanity in another person.
I won’t forget what happened the late morning on October 25, 2002.  My wife, Amy, came home in tears to tell me that Paul had died in an airplane accident.  She put up a black drape over the Wellstone sign we had in our yard.
Amy and I drove up to Williams Arena a few days later to participate in the Memorial service.  At the time I thought Rick Kahn’s speech was over the top, but I understood the grief he was feeling.  For one of the few times in my life I cried at the loss that everyone in the Arena was experiencing. 
Last Thursday Amy and I went to hear David Wellstone speak about his work regarding Mental Illness.  I had never met him, but hearing him speak brought back many memories.  Afterwards I stood in line to purchase his new book.  When we talked I shared with him some of my experiences with Paul.  He smiled and gave me a hearty handshake.
I’ve certainly “gotten over” the loss of Paul Wellstone.  But on the tenth anniversary of his death I want to celebrate one of the most decent people I’ve ever met.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pew Forum Report--Good news for Presbyterians

Last week the Pew Forum shared a report on Religious Life in America.  The report is fascinating and should be required reading for every religious leader in the United States.

The complete report can be found here:
The executive summary of the report can be found here:

The main headlines of the report are that "Nones" are on the rise.  This means that people who don't claim an affiliation to a church or religion are on the increase.  The report called these folks, "Unaffiliated." Twenty percent of all adults in the United States describe themselves as unaffiliated compared to 15% of all adults five years ago

On the surface this should be depressing for any person who is involved in leading a church and especially a person who is starting a new church. 

This doesn't mean that the United States has become a secular country compared to other countries.  The number of Americans who currently say religion is very important in their lives (58%), is little changed since 2007.  This number is much higher than Britain (17%), France (13%), Germany (21%) or Spain (22%).

It's easy to draw simplistic conclusions to such a detailed report.  However the executive summary shares some fascinating information.

The reason that the number of unaffiliated is higher is generational replacement, which is the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.  One-third of the youngest Millennial (ages 18-22) identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated compared to ten percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) and five percent of the Greatest Generation (born 1913-1927).  The church as a whole is not connecting with this youngest generation.

It's fascinating to know the impressions of the church by people who identify themselves as unaffiliated.  The chart at the top of the blog interests me the most.  The unaffiliated believe that the church is too concerned with money and power; are too focused on rules; and are too involved with politics.  That makes sense to me.  I don't want to be a pastor of a church who falls into any of those three categories.

A large number of unaffiliated folks believe the church should bring people together and strengthen community bonds; and the church should play in important role in helping the poor and needy.  Does this sound like a Presbyterian church?  Yes!  If anything Presbyterians do a terrific job at strengthening community bonds and helping the poor and needy.

Our Presbyterian approach to service and community building are ones that can connect to people who aren't affiliated to a congregation.  Let's keep doing the great work we've done at community building and helping the poor and needy.  Then let's proclaim our work from "the mountain top."

These aren't the only ways to connect to folks who aren't affiliated with a church, but I think we can grow in numbers if we do them well.  The research bears this out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection

This past week I had the privilege of attending Leadership Institute in Kansas City with four others from Chain of Lakes New Church.  This conference is put on by United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest Methodist Church in the United States.  The church started with four people in 1990 and currently has 8,300 people worshipping weekly and another 2,300 people worshipping each week online. 
This is the sixth time I have attended Leadership Institute—the third time while at Chain of Lakes New Church. 
Leadership Institute is a combination of workshops, talks given by Adam Hamilton—the founding and senior pastor, and worship.   Church of the Resurrection has always been very generous in giving everything they’ve learned away to other churches.  Notes from their workshops can be found at:
The best workshop I attended was on worship planning.  Connie Stella, a long-time staff person at the church who has just recently taken on a worship position at Abington Press, shared their worship planning process.  I was able to attend the workshop with Kristel Peters, the new Music Director at Chain of Lakes.
Connie Stella shared that for each sermon series the church develops a Creative Brief.  The Creative Brief is a tool or guide for planning a series of services or a single worship service.  An outline of the Creative Brief looks like this:
A.  Objective
As a result of this worship service what should the worshipper
B.  Tone
Describe the emotional quality of the service
C.  Key Characteristic of God that will be emphasized in the service or in the series
D.  Other
Order to worship
Additional Scriptures
Song or Music Selection
Pray—how will we incorporate prayer into the service
Color palette
Announcements and events
Unifying elements
Anything else that is important
As always Adam Hamilton did a terrific job of speaking.  He organized his presentations around a number of stories of Jesus.  He talked about the stories and then gave specific examples of how the stories have influenced the ministry at Church of the Resurrection.
The best part of the trip was spending time with Val Owens, Kristel Peters, Jennifer Huehns, and Melanie Vosdingh.  We spent four days together.  We had plenty of time to talk about our lives and our thoughts about Chain of Lakes New Church.  Spending this amount of unrushed time with them was a gift—and is difficult to have when we are back home. 
I strongly encourage people to attend Leadership Institute.  Our group wants to go next year.  We’d love to go with more people from Chain of Lakes New Church and other Presbyterians.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Presbytery Pastors Retreat

For the past 24 hours I had the privilege of attending a Pastors (Teaching Elder) Retreat that the Committee on Ministry of our Presbytery organized.  The Retreat was held at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake and coordinated by Richard Buller, pastor of Valley Community Presbyterian Church.
I was unsure about going until the very last minute.  My wife, Amy, asked me on Sunday night if I was looking forward to the Retreat.  “Yes,” I replied, “but there is part of me that would like to stay and get more work done.” 
My sentiment is exactly why I and all pastors need a Retreat like this.  The highlight of the time for me was being away and allowing myself to decompress for 24 hours at a beautiful setting. 
I arrived at noon on Monday.  I was fortunate to have lunch with Chaz & Janet Ruark—and we hardly even talked about our work!  After lunch Deb De Meester shared some of her learnings about leadership.  At the end of our session she encouraged us to reflect on and understand the images of leadership we carry with us right now.  We had a long break where I was able to go for a long run.  After a wonderful dinner at another resort, we enjoyed worship.  Bill Davnie read some Psalms of Ascents, we sang some eventide hymns, and Chaz encouraged us to rest and relax—keep our stuff in order.
This morning we feasted at breakfast, spent more time talking about leadership, and then feasted at lunch.  We had just the right mix of free time, learnings, worship, and food.
I’m encouraged that this Retreat could become a yearly event for our Presbytery.  I don’t know of any Teaching Elder who doesn’t feel enormous stress in their ministry.  We need to continue to build relationships with each other and be intentional about taking Sabbath.  I’m glad I didn’t give into the temptation of doing more work.  My soul is in a better place.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Story about the Holy Spirit

This past Sunday I preached about the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is one of six gifts with which God blesses us. An image that I shared that helps me understand the Holy Spirit more clearly is “Footprints in the Sand.” The image comes from the popular poem that is shared on many funeral bulletins. We can look back on events of our life and see the footprints of God—the Holy Spirit. Through faith we can understand that God was leading and directing us—we can practically see the footprints. The video and manuscript of the sermon can be found at

Recently I had a story of these footprints. This past June we ended the first round of hiring a Music Leader at Chain of Lakes New Church. The process ended when the three candidates we were ready to interview in person all dropped out for personal reasons. At the time this was discouraging—mainly because we had to start all over in the process.

At the time I was reading the book “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. One phrase that he wrote which resonated with me was “pray as if it depends on God; work as if it depends on you.” I decided to apply this idea to our new search for a Music Leader. I made a pledge to God that I would pray on my knees 15 minutes a day until we hired a Music Leader at Chain of Lakes New Church.

I told God on many occasions that I felt like the persistent widow in the story in Luke 18. I acknowledged during my prayer time that I was pleading with God to bring us a quality candidate. During these times on my knees I experienced many impressions (footprints) from God. While praying before the first deadline for applications, I felt an impression that we would receive new applications that week—and we did.

At that first meeting of our Worship Team I asked the group what we would do if we received more candidates. They all agreed that we should keep an open mind. When I got home that day we received an application from Kristel Peters.

During an interview with Kristel I learned that she was living in Bemidji and looking to come back to the Twin Cities. A friend of hers had found out about the position through a flyer that Betty Long—a disciple at Chain of Lakes New Church—had put at Caribou Coffee. This friend E-mailed Kristel to share the information.

If someone had told me at the beginning of the search process that we would hire someone who was living four hours away and that the person would find out about the position from a friend who saw a flyer at a Caribou in the Twin Cities, I would have said, “Wow.” Only God can do that.

Yes—only God. Kristel will be sharing music for the first time in worship this Sunday at Chain of Lakes New Church. Even more exciting is to see the footprints of God in our ministry. Praise the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Please Read Sarah Bigwood's blog!

I asked Sarah Bigwood, who has plenty of experience with 20 and 30 somethings, to write a blog about how she would have structured the Presbytery meeting the other night from the perspecitve of a young adult--people we Presbyterians give lip service to wanting to have involved.

She did a terrific job. Thank you, Sarah.

This blog should be required reading for all Presbyterians. I even suggest giving an exam to all future Presbyterian commissioners on the ideas that she presented!!

How about a Pre-Presbytery event also.

The blog is here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Presbytery meeting--long, hot, and cranky

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area gathered for its September meeting yesterday at the Presbyterian church in Shakopee. Mary Ann Archer, a leader at Chain of Lakes New Church, rode down with me. We arrived at 3:00 to finish up some business with the Property Purchase Task Force. I ended up spending my time at a table distributing newsletters from our new church and rocks from our new property. We distributed these rocks at the Property Dedication service on August 22. It was wonderful talking to people at the table and sharing these important mementos from this important event.

Unfortunately the Presbyterian church building in Shakopee is not air conditioned—and the temperature yesterday rose into the 90’s. The sanctuary was warm and somehow I think this affected the mood of the body. People came ready to argue.

And we did—a resolution was brought to oppose the proposed Minnesota state constitutional amendment on marriage. The resolution can be found at:

Those against the amendment argued that taking this position won’t make any difference in the world; that this action takes the Presbytery away from the important mission of making disciples; that the position is not consistent with the Scriptures; and that it won’t further the peace and unity of the church.

Those in favor of the amendment argued that other denominations have taken a position, particular the local Catholic Diocese, that Jesus would be in favor of this position, and not to take a stand on the issue is divisive.

I thought the debate was thoughtful and respectful—and even cut short a bit when the question was called.

The vote was taken by secret ballot. The vote was 99 yes, 39 no, with 4 abstentions.

We then proceeded to the longest Committee on Ministry report I can ever remember. We voted on requests for pastoral changes from Edgcumbe, Buffalo, Church of the Master and Spirit of Life along with two requests for validation for ministry and ordination. These six items took an interminable amount of time to cover.

I was disappointed that John Gay, the pastor whom Presbyterian Church of the Master (PCOM) brought to the Presbytery, was asked if he would take the congregation out of the denomination. PCOM is certainly on the conservative edge of our denomination and many people have wondered if they will stay with the PC(USA). However I don’t think the Presbytery made any friends among the people at PCOM by asking this question in public and then nitpicking about the number of women the Pastoral Nominating Committee interviewed.

Ultimately I think the question is appropriate--as I hope that a pastor won't lead a congregation out of the PC(USA). However I didn't think the timing of the question was appropriate. Feelings in the Presbytery are raw right now in the context of the Presbytery passing its Gracious Separation Policy in June.

We adjourned for a break and were treated to the best meal a local congregation has served at a Presbytery meeting in a very long time.

The speed of the meeting didn’t pick up after dinner. We worshipped together and celebrated Communion and then heard a very long report about General Assembly. We then went back to the Committee on Ministry report—which wasn’t done yet! We listened as another candidate for ordination read a Statement of Faith and then was questioned.

At this point I went into the lobby to find a comfortable chair and sit by a door that had a breeze. I wish I hadn’t as Margaret Thomas made a common-sense motion to streamline Committee on Ministry reports to the Presbytery. Unfortunately this did not pass.

At this point the Presbytery started clapping when speakers said their reports were short. I was the very last speaker and spoke for two minutes about the progress of Chain of Lakes New Church and the property dedication we held last month.

We adjourned about 9:30 and staggered out of the hot building.

During the meeting the comment was made about the importance of empowering young people in our congregations and the Presbytery. If we’re really serious about this we will change the way we do business. Not too many young people want to sit in a warm building for five and a half hours while their kids are home. My wife and daughter went to a music concert last night to commemorate September 11. I wish I could have been with them.